Josh Hinkle

2024 Jason Hightower Award for Broadcast Excellence

KXAN-TV Austin (Nexstar)

(Published August 2024)

TAB proudly presents the Jason Hightower Award to recognize individuals with at least two years’ experience in the broadcast industry who have demonstrated a proficiency for enterprise and innovation in servicing their stations’ audience and communities.

Josh Hinkle

The awards are named in honor of TAB 2009 Chairman Jason Hightower, owner/operator of KMOO Mineola, who passed away in March 2009 after battling brain cancer. He was 37.

Josh Hinkle is KXAN’s Director of Investigations & Innovation

“Josh Hinkle is the creative and organizational force behind KXAN’s successful investigative team. Not only does he produce high-impact, compelling investigations of his own, he leads a team of 10 people digging into the complex issues facing folks living around Austin and Texans statewide,” said News Director Haley Cihock.

“Josh is also an incredible ambassador for our company and investigative journalism, constantly seeking to foster innovation and elevation of the field.”

He leads KXAN-TV’s 12-person duPont and Murrow Award-winning investigative team on multiple platforms.

Last year, he led a full newsroom effort to investigate the state’s TxTag system, driven by the #1 viewer complaint.

The results were as meaningful as the project was innovative.

View project

That’s far from his first high-impact project, though.

In 2018, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) selected “Fallen,” an investigative documentary Josh produced about fatal police shootings and officers’ mental health training, as the recipient of the national Sigma Delta Chi Award for Best Documentary.

The same year, “DENIED,” an investigative project he produced about police transparency during in-custody death cases, won an Emmy for investigative series.

In 2019, he launched the station’s first podcast series, “Catalyst,” which accompanies the multi-platform investigations “Mayberry Texas” about flaws in the state’s missing persons system, “A History of Mass Violence” about four decades of mass shootings in Texas, and “Dead & Undone” about people dying in police custody – the latter of which earned an Emmy for journalistic enterprise and was recognized nationally with a special citation among the News Leaders Association’s First Amendment Awards in 2021.

“Mayberry Texas” was also a national finalist for an Online Journalism Award and Emmy winner for journalistic enterprise in 2019. The inaugural season of

“Catalyst” won a National Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio Television Digital New Association (RTDNA) in the podcast category in 2020, while a collection of “KXAN Investigates” digital projects Josh led also won a national Murrow in the multimedia category that same year.

One recent season – part of a collaboration with ClearHealthCosts – provides expert analysis for KXAN’s “Medical Debt Lawsuits” project, which sparked a new law in 2023 requiring greater billing transparency from Texas hospitals.

That same year, the project won a National Murrow for “Excellence in Innovation.”

In 2020, Josh and his team also debuted a digital-first investigation called “Locked in Limbo,” which highlights mental competency challenges among Texas inmates.

It was honored with two Emmys that year for investigative series and journalistic enterprise and was named a Scripps Howard Award national finalist and a Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting national semi-finalist.

In addition to its own podcast season, that project featured a solutions journalism approach to storytelling – a concept Josh has helped implement at KXAN and Nexstar through initiatives like 2019’s “Save Our Students: Solutions for Wellness & Safety” – which was the national recipient of Mental Health America’s Media Award and was a finalist for the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Leadership Foundation’s Service to America Award – and 2020’s “Pandemic PASS or FAIL: Solutions for Education Equity” – a nationwide project focused on the coronavirus and its disproportionate impact on some students.

Both projects were collaborations with the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN).

In 2021, Josh and the investigative team continued their research into mental health issues in Texas jails, launching “Mental Competency Consequences” after receiving a national fellowship and partnering with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism.

The project highlighted untracked deaths on the state hospital waitlist, prompting officials to begin re-examining how they collect information and the impact of a record backlog.

It was honored with a National Murrow in 2022 for “Excellence in Innovation,” along with two other wins – another collection of “KXAN Investigates” projects in the digital category and an update episode to the fourth season of “Catalyst” in the podcast category, which featured Josh testifying before state legislators about law enforcement transparency challenges.

That same year, a multi-platform collaboration, “Justice for Some,” Josh produced with the Texas Observer to examine public corruption won an Emmy for journalistic enterprise.

If that weren’t enough to keep him busy, Josh is also executive producer and host of “State of Texas,” a weekly program – and companion podcast – focused on the Texas Legislature and elections, seen in 14 markets statewide.

His work on the show has been honored three times with the national Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism in 2015 for coverage of the women’s health debate, in 2017 for an exposé on border security funding, and in 2019 for an investigation into financial questions surrounding Texas’ oil and gas regulators.

The show has also earned 10 Emmys for politics and public affairs programming.

Josh is committed to fostering the journalism industry, and to the ideals of a free press.

He serves on the board of directors for both IRE and FOIFT, the former of which he also currently serves as Vice President.

He has chaired IRE’s training committee and currently chairs its member services committee, along with leading a recurring master class on managing investigators.

Additionally, he sits on SJN’s advisory council and the board of governors for the Lone Star Emmys, teaches as a faculty member for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) News Video Workshop, serves as a journalist of color fellowship mentor for the Maynard Institute and is a member of SPJ, NPPA and the Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists (NLGJA).

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